Just hours before the California Department of Fish and Game was to poison a stream in the Sierra Nevada — part of an effort to restore a threatened trout — a federal court halted the project.
The plan called for killing all fish
in an 11-mile stretch of Silver King Creek and Tamarack Lake, then
restocking the area with Paiute cutthroat trout, the rarest trout
in North America, according to the agency. Currently, a mix of
rainbow trout, Lahontan cutthroat trout and brown trout —
introduced for anglers decades ago — interbreed with the
Paiute trout and compete for its food. Although six runs of pure
Paiute exist elsewhere in the Sierra, Fish and Game says it’s
important to return the fish to its historical range in that
section of Silver King Creek, in the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness.
In August, however, the nonprofit group Californians for
Alternatives to Toxics sued to force the U.S. Forest Service to
complete an environmental impact statement before letting the state
poison the stream with rotenone (HCN, 5/7/01: Debate rages over
fish poisoning). The group is concerned because the poison would
kill all animals in the stream and could adversely affect the rare
mountain yellow-legged frog.
On Aug. 31, Judge Frank C.
Damrell Jr. ordered the project stopped until the Forest Service
can prepare an environmental impact statement. But Fish and Game
now says that it is nixing the plan entirely, having spent all of
the $260,000 earmarked for the project. "They (the plaintiffs)
basically spent us into the ground," says department spokesman
Patrick Foy. "We’ve thrown in the towel."